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Do You “Have Patience” or Should You “Be Patient”?

Patience is the ability to tolerate a long wait calmly or deal with irritating situations without frustration. Many of the world’s most distinguished thinkers have highlighted the importance of patience. For Aristotle, patience was bitter, but its fruit was sweet. For Tolstoy, it was one of two most mighty warriors, the other being time. And for Lao Tzu, it was one of the three most remarkable treasures to have, coupled with compassion and simplicity.

Because patience is a virtue that has received praise worldwide and through the ages, we should all aspire to be patient. Or should we be attempting to have patience? Or maybe be patience? What about be patients? There is most definitely room for confusion here, so let’s make this easy: You have patience, because patience is a noun; You can be patient, because patient is an adjective; You can be patience personified, but it is not exceptionally easy to attain; You cannot have patientPatients is plural for patient (a noun), a person who is obtaining medical attention, and it’s here only because it sounds kind of like patience.

How to Properly Use “Patient”

Patient (PAY-shunt) is an adjective used to define an individual who is not hasty, who can handle things calmly, or who remains tenacious when faced with hardship: 

“Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia.” – Chicago Tribune

“But their numbers only build up when there is plenty for them to eat, so there is always a time lag while you wait for the cavalry to charge to your defence. Learn to be patient. Avoid using nitrogen-rich feeds, which encourage the soft, sappy growth that aphids like best.” – The Independent

There is also the noun patient, which means somebody who is ill and needs medical treatment. Patient the noun and patient the adjective are called homonyms, making some people think that you can’t say be patient when you’re encouraging someone to stay calm because you’d really be telling them to get medical assistance. This is, of course, untrue—you can be a patient when you’re sick, but you need to be patient so that you can get better.

How to Properly Use “Patience” 

Patience (PAY-shun(t)s) is the noun format of the adjective patient. Because it is a noun, we say that patience is something that someone can have: 

Mr. Vargas, 51, is no stranger to this wait. At times, he has been stuck for nine hours. “Have patience, people!” he called. – The New York Times

“The most important thing you can pack for holiday travel this year is patience. Prepare yourselves for a chaotic holiday at the airport.” – The Boston Globe

Because patience is something you can have, that means it’s also something you can lose: 

“Then she moves into the room next to his. She seems unable to reconnect with life. She goes places with Robert, but is fragile: she has headaches and emotional troubles. Robert seems to lose patience with her. They stop seeing each other and after a while she makes an effort and returns to class.— The New Yorker

“Observers say there are fewer children coming into licensed adoption agencies because of a thriving illegal market that siphons off abandoned infants from hospitals directly to couples. Those who try to adopt legally face long, frustrating waits. Some lose patience and give up. – The Guardian


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By Connie Fisher

Connie Fisher is a freelance writer and editor specializing in business writing and marketing. She holds a bachelor's degree in media and journalism and has contributed to a slew of printed and online media, including Contra Costa Times, Daily American, the The Tri-Town News,, and many more.

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